It is Britney, bitch.

I read Steve Dennis’s ‘Inside the Dream’ aka the Britney Spears biography, and I’m feeling no shame at all. Maybe just a little, tiny bit. I wouldn’t have felt the need to say that I have no shame in reading Britney Spears’s biography if I hadn’t sensed a bit of heckling in the tone of certain friends who maybe thought that reading Britney’s biography is an affront to all that is tasteful in the world. They shall not worry because it must be known that sometimes I read the occasional David Foster Wallace, which is truly for me the height of highbrow, ahem.

As a matter of undeniable fact I’m just really the kind of person who would read a Britney Spears biography. If the opportunity presents itself I wouldn’t think twice about the Sharon Stone biography and the Lindsay Lohan and the Jeff Buckley. It is wholly non-uncharacteristic of me to be reading those.

You should know that reading Britney’s biography gives you deeper appreciation for and life lessons from the international superstar kind of life, not that you will ever have an immediate need for those. I haven’t read that many pop star biographies but I’m guessing there’s not much to find in lesser stars’s biographies that I wouldn’t already read about in Brit’s, no? But as I’ve said, no lowly, ‘unartistic’ book is beneath me, so that maybe if I see Natalie Imbruglia’s or any of the All Saints girls’ memoir in Book Sale, maybe I can find it in my indiscriminate heart to grab and pick valuable superstar lessons from.

Predictably, the Britney biography begins with her humble beginnings in a small Louisiana town. As you know, humble beginnings are almost all the same even if you’re Britney Spears. If I wasn’t so patient I would have skipped this part altogether because I already know all about superstar humble beginnings via the one and only Vondie Curtis Hall classic, Glitter.

The thing to remember when reading about superstars, I now realize is, it is imperative to separate your non-famous self’s circumstance from the superstars’ because the worlds you and the superstar inhabit are not and never will be the same. With that mindset, you will be ready to accept the fact that being hounded by paparazzi while you get out of your Mercedez, underperforming your latest hit single in the MTV Video Music Awards, and getting into child custody battles with hot ex-husbands are things worthy of the common man’s sympathy.

So Britney went through tough times in her life because her family, like yours and mine, wasn’t all that together, just like any other dysfunctional family in the world. In fact Britney’s family was so dysfunctional her mom had to write two books about it. I went through those obligatory chapters to get to the meatier parts fast. And the meaty parts are indeed meaty. Or maybe I’m just starved for celebrity scandals and our lack of E! and The Biography channels needs serious addressing.

In all honesty (as opposed to ‘In all dishonesty’) there is not much you will read here that you will not have already read, heard or seen elsewhere. What makes Steve Dennis’ rendering of the Britney kind of life special is it’s coherent although occasionally factually erroneous telling of the rise and fall and rise and fall of Britney.

I’m not a fan of Britney’s but she’s compelling in a way that the likes of Willa Ford, Nicole Scherzinger, Cheryl Cole, Gwen Stefani and other pop starlets are not. Plus I like her songs and I have no shame in that, too. Precisely five years ago, during the Circus era, I could never understand why Britney Spears is consistently Yahoo search’s #1 topic. I could never truly appreciate Britney’s popularity that people would always go searching for her latest escapades. Maybe she’s less relevant in Google search? Maybe it’s because she really is the Marilyn Monroe/Princess Diana figure of our time? Whatever, the answer does not lie in this biography. The answer is in the intro of ‘Gimme More’. It’s simply because ‘It’s Britney, bitch.’

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My Madonna playlist…

…is better than yours.

Celebration
Gang Bang
Get Together
Revolver
Girl Gone Wild
Sky Fits Heaven
Shanti/Ashtangi
Impressive Instant
Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
What It Feels Like For A Girl
The Power of Goodbye
Rain
Nobody Knows Me [Live]
Erotica [Live]
Like a Virgin [Live]
Cherish
Express Yourself
Jump
Vogue
Isaac
Like a Prayer
Die Another Day
Hollywood
She’s Not Me
Runaway Lover
Miles Away
I’ll Remember
Live to Tell

Greatest Hits and Misses

I want to have all of Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits albums because I fear the total shut down of CD-selling is nigh. CDs are always going to be a part of me, they’re a part of me indefinitely, although I’ve been reassessing the importance of CDs in my life since it seems like such a huge waste of money to buy several greatest hits album of an artist whose individual albums I already own. Besides, how greedy should a record label be to release not one, not two, but five Greatest Hitses for a single artist to sell me, the unwise consumer? More importantly, how greedy am I for wanting to have everything of hers? Very greedy, it would appear, and I don’t mind. I never knew how much greedier I could get with an iPod since owning one only caused me to want even more albums. I therefore conclude that greed recognizes no format.

I only ever felt this need for Mariah whose Greatest Hits I got recently. It is a sloppily packaged CD and there are no thank yous to be found, not so much as a Hi, not even the type of hasty i-love-you-fans type of message that artists feel the need to say to fans for their contribution to their already insanely vast riches via album purchases and general acts of worship. As a practicer of such worship, I don’t feel sorry for contributing to certain singers’ riches as it is their due for being so aspirational and generally just fabulous in every way and for being so great at making people feel this blinded but ultimately satisfactory sense of satiation, and for being so skilled at promising lifelong fanaticism to them that creates within a fan/lonely-consumer-who-finds-meaning-in-material-things a true sense of fulfillment and joy that’s quite hard to explain although easy to be repetitive and be such a bore about. Greatest Hits is quite the obligatory Sony release and its fuss-free booklet is such a shameful act of obligation fulfillment since this is the least suspicious greatest hits of hers and couldn’t they have at least got a nice, crazy quote from her. In a perfect world this would have remixes, b-sides, live performances, rock versions and remakes which we will never tire of.

This collection claims to be ‘the ultimate Mariah Carey album. From the infectious Dreamlover through to Fantasy and Underneath the Stars all the songs on this album are certified Mariah classics‘ which may or may not be right depending on which particular consumer is consuming this product. This is simply something that can be said of any of her compilation albums including The Remixes and #1s. The sequence doesn’t do the randomness of the songs any favor. This compilation is for the very casual Mariah Carey consumer and the album is happy just to be sold.

The inclusion of Fantasy ODB Remix in The Remixes, although already included in two previous compilation albums, is not this album’s only sin. Here is finally a remix album with which the geniuses at Sony can finally shelter the remixes of her great remixes [I Still Believe (Damizza Remix), Breakdown (Mo Thugs), Honey (Bad Boy Remix), to name a few ] and what do the geniuses do? They not only exclude the remixed version of the songs, they include the previously released album versions, probably with the mindset that consumers who have yet to discover the very obscure Mariah Carey discography will learn that a song called Breakdown exists in its chaste form, that is, non-remixed, even though it is in a REMIX ALBUM, and it will be so much better to leave it untouched and stack said songs with actual remixes. Concept schmoncept, sales is king. Also a sin? Uglifying Charmbracelet’s Yours featuring a guest verse from BIG sound alike Bone Crusher. Another sin is editing I Know What You Want right to the part where Busta Rhymes says J Records. This album needs to confess.

And because the world needs another Mariah Carey love songs compilation (and maybe it seriously does), Sony, the milkingest record label of all time, releases The Ballads. Mariah is pure cash cow at this point. She’s been milked so thoroughly, you have to wonder if there’s any left for her babies. I’m sorry, that was sinister. But Sony is sinisterer. This is actually not a completely worthless product if you ask the laziest playlist maker in the world. This proves useful when you don’t feel like making your own Mariah ballads playlist, except the playlist is still quite limited and repetitive. If I were to make my own ballads playlist, I’d include unreleased and rare stuff such as Slipping Away and There for Me because I’m not from Sony music. Record Label Geniuses think differently. What is another Hero, Vision of Love, My All in yet another Mariah Carey greatest hits of sorts collection? Cash and time spared from a well thought-out playlist, is what.

The greatest greatest hits in my humble opinion is the modestly titled, #1s. In its liner notes, Mariah screams, No! This is not yet the Greatest Hits! Too early for that! although it may as well have been. This is a remarkable collection that reminds of the time when Mariah albums are both product and art, however meaningless being either entailed. And it’s just what we needed: a fairly sized number 1 hits collection that begins with a foreboding of things to come, image and soundwise. It begins with the sexy Sweetheart with Jermaine Dupri, followed by prestige duets When You Believe with Whitney Houston and Whenever You Call with Brian McKnight, which if songs were representations of our diva, is exactly how I like my Mariah: sexy and prestigious. It begins with the recent hits and winds down to the earliest, offering a trip down memory lane, tracing the progression/regression from the skimpy outfitting, helicopter ho posturing-Mariah to the Boyz II Men dueting, tights-loving Mariah of the Sony Mottola years. It was a lovely era of great, almost minimalistic album covers (#1s, Butterfly, Daydream) and rap guest verse-heavy R&B which is really what made me go crazy about her. Not long after this gorgeous era, she got a little crazy herself. But the hits that resulted from the insane era, also great. And with bated breath, I/we await the 00s Mariah’s greatest hits., Glitter things very much included.

This is a Recording

If I were to make an album consisting of only covers, these are songs I would pick to sing:

1. Wishful Thinking by Duncan Sheik – because it’s well within my range. Plus I really like the Great Expectations soundtrack. From that soundtrack, I’d also pick Sunshower by Chris Cornell because it’s so sweet and I’m a sometime admirer of Chris Cornell’s jawbones.

2. Wait by Sarah McLachlan – because it sounds so dark and deep, and Sarah McLachlan is one of my favorite singers of quietly angry songs.

3. Borrowing Time by Aimee Mann – because if you’re a guy and you sing her songs, it doesn’t matter what your vocal chords are made of, because as long as you know how to interpret any song of hers, the vocal chords will not matter very much and your true feelings, your soul will lend itself to the song, the music and all will be forgiven. Hahahahaha. But I kinda mean this.

4. That’s Just What You Are by Aimee Mann – because I truly love her candidness.

5. Morning Theft by Jeff Buckley

6. All the Lovers by Kylie Minogue – which I would have to render in acoustic or maybe not.

7. Cosmic Love by Florence + the Machines – because this song is just too damned gorgeous not to be in my album god damn it.

8. Rootless Tree by Damien Rice – because I want to be able to say fuck you in a song in a meaningful and melodic way repeatedly.

9. Train on a Track by Kelly Rowland – because If I were a pop diva, I’d definitely be Kelly Rowland: low key yet gorgeous. But more than that, this song is so heartwarming and it has a cuteness to it that doesn’t feel forced or something.

10. Siren by Tori Amos – because once upon a time I really idolized her and this is the song that introduced me to the wonderful world of Tori Amos.

11. HATE U by Mariah Carey (Bonus Track) – because even though she’s crazy, I love her and if the song proves to be too tough for my limited vocal performing, I could always switch it up with The-Dream version.

Please buy my albums.

Ceremonials in my life

  • Emma Forest used to cry herself to sleep because she didn’t write the The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. She’s saying this as someone who probably used to be nuts over Edgar Allan Poe, and I instantly recognize the sentiment because it’s similar to my own failure to come up with the idea of superstarmarian, not that I’ve ever had the foresight to come up with something revolutionary or meaningful. But me and Emma along with other fellow Florence nuts should just forgive ourselves for not birthing Florence Welch, for not being responsible for Ceremonials. We should just be happy to have it in our lives.
  • People who joke about wanting to end their lives because there’s nothing in it for them anymore should cancel the suicide and listen to this first.
  • Strangeness and Charm is even more explosive in the studio version. In it Florence sounds like Karen O but thousand times better.
  • You would want to dance to Heartlines, cry to Only if for a Night and Shake it Out, and have sex to Seven Devils. It’s the kind of album you’d want to do activities to, including but not restricted to doing drugs, getting drunk, jumping off the 33rd floor of a building, expressing love.
  • Many times before I almost swore off Mariah because she keeps making decisions I do not approve of, the latest of which is allowing Justin Bieber to shit on All I Want for Christmas is You the result of which is highly despicable. But I probably won’t let her go, the crazy one. In case I do, dahling, Miss Welch will take your place and it is not a place you would want to relinquish.
  • Regarding Christmas, maybe this Christmas I’ll give really nice people in my life Ceremonials so people in this country responsible for accounting for album sales will see sales of it skyrocket and then sound the alarm up in the UK where Florence presumably mostly stays or wherever and have her informed and her people, ‘hey, that tiny Asian country that is not Singapore is buying your album. Go there.’
  • When I go nuts over a musical artist I want everyone in my life to believe and succumb to the fascination like I did to Robyn. The Robyn campaign wasn’t very successful on account of her CDs aren’t being sold here. This time it will be different…
  • I used to think of Florence as an indieish, panderous-to-the-hipster-crowd type of performer that I had to have someone pull strings to obtain Lungs from somewhere over at some First World in the belief that the album simply would not be available here. It’s with an enormous surprise that I discovered Between Two Lungs wedged between Faithless (whatever that is!) and Foo Fighters at an AstroVision. This country’s music distribution people have taste after all and it is a taste I highly approve of. Deluxe Edition at that! Bravo, people in the Philippine music distribution industry. I’m sorry for doubting your faith in the absolute gorgeousness that is Ceremonials. Never had I been so pleased to have a notion of mine be disabused.
  • Adele’s 21 is highly and widely regarded as one of the modern time’s most recognizable greatest pop album and in fairness to the fattie, 21 is indeed very good but it’s also so thoroughly depressing. Ceremonials is also mostly sad but it’s also pretty, hopeful, powerful, otherworldly, vibrant, alive, mesmerizing, danceable and joyful.
  • The Grammy will regret the day it did not choose Florence + the Machines as Best New Artist. They will not recover from that folly.
  • ‘And I did cartwheels in your honor, dancing on tiptoes My own secret ceremonials before the service began, In the graveyard, doing handstands.’  I do, if it’s physically possible, want to perform cartwheels in her honor, dancing on tiptoes, my own secret ceremonials before the album mania began.
  • When I had my first break up with my first male girlfriend, I remember repeatedly playing Aimee Mann’s The Forgotten Arm and I have never stopped associating it since then to heartbreak although it was really more like a loss of a prized gadget than human. Nothing truly remarkable is happening right now except the remarkable things that are happening that I’m not aware of. I won’t remember any of these recent times’ remarkable things but I’ll always remember it as the time that this stunning piece of art was born.

Women who are better than Katy Perry and Teenage Dream

Not So Soft

I meant to transfer to the iPod the CD Kanlungan Mga Piling Kanta ng Buklod which Kiel got me two Christmases ago but I never got around to it because I am drowning in a sea of albums and there is no more iPod to transfer it too. Ani DiFranco’s Not so Soft reminds me of the pureness of Damien Rice’s music, the type that has the least amount of post-production tinkering that either polishes or ruins an album, which is not to say that I don’t like them overproduced, studio-manufactured pop sensations. For Christmas 2010, Kill gave me Not So Soft, which is of the Damien Rice, Gary Granada mold: unadorned, just guitars, studio intervention-proof, and melody-deficient album the likes of which I’m fortunate to have industrious, online-purchasing, eccentric friend who would think to give me such things, aside from the obvious that I like receiving things of the round and shiny kind. I may never catch the nuances of Ani’s beautiful poetry, I may take issues with its lack of soaring melodies, but I can see why certain people would take to her soaring emotions. I can imagine how at some point in someone’s life songs like On Every Corner and Not so Soft (in a forest of stone, underneath the corporate canopy, where the sun, rarely, filters, down, the ground, is not so soft, not so soft…), might have struck someone’s something, the way Damien Rice’s O lulled me to sleep and kept me company during certain Quiet Rage moments not too long ago.

Goddess

A striking opposite of the folky, guitar artistes is Kylie Minogue, a recent obsession of mine in this electropop-crazy music situation of late. I knew the moment I heard that Star World teaser commercial which used the Get Outta My Way intro that Aphrodite had to be mine. I rarely like first singles but All the Lovers and Get Outta My Way make me feel really happy and empowered and deaf. She makes the kind of disco, let’s dance, dance floor, love me with your disco balls, disco songs that are truly dance- and happy-making. It’s all crazy in the dance floor silliness that are organically gay and disco.

The Fantastic Florence plus the Fabulous Machines

There’s a drumming noise inside my head, it makes such an almighty sound. Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air. I know I can count on you. Gone are the days of begging the days of theft, no more gasping for a breath! (in terms of obtaining the album legally). These lyrics and the way she sings them, the kind of delirious, gleeful singing she does, approximate the experience of listening to Lungs. It’s the kind of album that puts you in listening phases. It starts, perfectly, with Dog Days are Over and progresses majestically to the middle, around Drumming Song through Cosmic Love, around which horrific sing-alongs at the top of my lungs ensues. The listening experience is the kind that makes you sit up in rapt attention (here comes Between Two Lungs! I must sing!). And ends with explosive sweetness with You’ve Got the Love (When food is gone, you’re all my daily need).

I’m so glad I watched TV the day I did, at that pivotal moment when the Dog Days are Over video happened to be playing on Channel [V], and I discovered this. This Florence fawning reminds me of my Tori Amos phase. I got to appreciate Tori around Scarlet’s Walk, which is to say very belatedly, and wondered how it must have felt to fall in love with her when Little Earthquakes was new. I could say the same for Mariah, Sarah McLachlan, etc., but I just feel like it’s more sensational when someone goes through a Tori Amos phase. I know it’s all so vague and so queer. I’m just glad to have paid attention to F+tM right on time. I haven’t seen a single foreign act concert because the effort it takes to go to one is just too much (lining up to buy the ticket, hailing a cab to get to the concert). If Florence Welch  (or Sarah McLachlan) comes over, I’ll be attending my first ever. Promise! The only sad thing about Lungs is that it ends. The music is sweeping, grand, operatic and spine-tingling.  None of which can be said of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. Yes, we really do need to bash others in order to effectively get some of our messages across.

Queen Robyn

Just when I thought her discography couldn’t get any better, it gets any betterer. After obsessing over Body Talk for a month and a half, I did some digging and discovered the oldish Robyn which also turned out to be an outstanding, impeccably made pop album. The Robyn slobfest is evidently far from over.  That the album be as listenable from start to finish is really all that you could ask for which is precisely what the Robyn albums are.

Sometimes I feel like my tastes are heavily influenced by consensus and by critics whose judgments and sensibilities I wish were mine, since I hardly listen to radio anymore, so that if some snobby music site says Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion album is so good, I ‘obtain’ it and convince myself that it is in fact good. I very randomly choose music to ‘obtain’ so the pride I felt for having discovered Robyn, out of sheer curiosity, is a moment of great pride and confusion. I’m very confused why her songs are not as famous as those stupid G6-airplane songs. I’m confused why this genuinely Europop artist FROM EUROPE is not as popular with the electronica pop-crazy music market of the moment. Lady Gaga is understandably famous since she’s quite the artiste, she sings and dresses insane, and The Fame Monster is all the work she ever needed to convince the heathens that she’s a bona fide musician whose talent far outweighs the antics. So she’s fine.  But with everyone else, WHY? Why is Robyn opening for acts like Katy Perry!? Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to work. Had Robyn been a chart-topping Billboard queen, I don’t think she would have been the sort of musician that I would go the ends of the earth to scour old albums for, and cry in frustration for its lack of popularity. Now that I’ve thought about it, in music, everything is very much right how they should be.

I lost my iPod in Manila

And the police officer looked genuinely concerned and non-dismissive. While talking to him, I knew there was no way it would be returned. We knew it was lost forever, but it felt nice just to have someone share the frustration. ‘Okay ka lang? Gusto mo ng tubig?’ I’m pretty sure he wanted to give me a hug. He was really nice.

In all my years as a student in Manila, I’ve never been victimized by petty thieves. My faith in the humanity of Manila peoples hasn’t been shattered even though it really is one of the filthiest, scummiest places in the country. I go there for my monthly dentist appointment not too concerned about safety. I’m now a grown up whose faith in Manila’s humanity is effectively shattered. Congratulations, Manila.

The first time I lost something valuable was in high school, when a classmate lent me her Girbaud wallet for a week, which I lost during lunch time. Borrowing a Girbaud wallet for a week is one of those stupid things we did in high school and I managed to compound that stupidity with another. I thought maybe I’m not meant to own anything that isn’t obtained from my own personal hard work. But then again, I’ve lost around 10 phones already; phones that were given as a gift, phones that were lent, phones that were bought with cash. I lose wallets too but less frequently than I do phones. The iPod was a Christmas gift from G. As long as it’s valuable, I lose it.

I lost two iPods in less than a year. There are no patterns in these incidents. The shitty city of Manila is full of crooks but so is anywhere else in Metro Manila. In fact, I’ve lost things in okay neighbourhoods too. It’s just the recklessness and carelessness that is constant and I need to remedy this carelessness. Do I never own another valuable gadget again? Do I forsake myself the things that other ultimately more careful people enjoy just because I’m aware of the great potential of losing the valuable again? Do I rid myself of the desire to enjoy anything worth more than P20,000, etc.

But I refuse to see the bleak in this. In fact I already am seeing the good in this otherwise very depressing loss:

1.       I slow down the development of tinnitus or whatever ear infection I’m sure to earn from continued and non-stop loud iPod playing because for as long as I own one, I will never cease to use it on every possible occasion, for as long as I have functioning ears.

2.       My CD-buying/CDs will be justified. They will look less pointless now that I have to turn to CDs again for music playing.

3.       I become aware that there are really seriously kind, concerned, non-lousy policemen in this country. From now on, I wouldn’t automatically think that policemen are just guys who freeload off buses. Thanks to Manila Police Officer Campos, he of the fine cheekbones and manners.

4.       I get to read more books. It will have to be the only entertainment of choice for long trips. Snatchers will never ever steal your paperback, ever.

5.       I have less reason to tinker with the computer because I have less reason to arrange iTunes playlist, which I spend a lot of time on.

6.       I don’t have to buy a protective case, something I’ve been meaning to do for the last 3 months.

7.       There is less urge to check Twitter and Facebook now that I can’t access them from a mobile device.

8.       Strangers I sit next to in buses and shuttles have no more reason to get annoyed by me, leaker of really loud music.

9.       My disdain for trains (MRT and LRT – the worst trains in the universe) will be more justified. I know there are thieves anywhere but our rail transport system, which gives a truly false sense of security by having mangmang guards check up on everyone’s belongings, prove to be totally worthless in times of trouble. I can’t decide which I hate more, the guards or the trains. Even, I guess. But as I’ve said, no sulking this time. And security guards deserve an entire blog post on its own.